Why No Sex Doesn't Mean No Tension by Author Jody Hedlund

Today I have the super fabulous Jody Hedlund with us. Jody is one of my favorite bloggers to read and is just an all around lovely person. I feel like I learn something every time I stop by her site.

And today she's going to talk to use about something I have no expertise in--writing romance with *gasp* no sexy scenes. :)  I love this topic because it shows how wonderful and diverse the romance genre is. There truly is something for everyone.

AND make sure and leave a comment WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS because Jody is giving away a copy of her newest release, The Doctor's Lady, to one lucky winner!

So without further ado, take it away Jody...

Are Sweet Romances Boring?

Does including sex in your romance novel help it to sell better?

There are those that might argue that, “Yes, sex sells.” And to some degree, that’s true. Why else would commercials use scantily-clad Victoria Secret-like models to sell everything from chewing gum to dish soap?

Okay. So I might be exaggerating just a tiny bit. But the point is that even in the book world, readers are attracted to covers with beautiful women who have lush bosoms and bare-chested men with sculpted abs.

But what about the sweet romances, books like mine, that have demure women on the front (literally covered from head to toe), and usually have limited (if any) sex in them? How do they sell? You might be asking, do they even sell at all?

My first book, The Preacher’s Bride (debuted in 2010), had to do with Puritans in England in the 1600’s. So even things like kissing and touching were fairly taboo. After my main characters get married, I depict them on their wedding night, sharing an intimate moment alone in their small house. But . . . I end the scene before they head to the bedroom.

Does that make my book boring?

Well, most of those who’ve read my book so far don’t seem to think so. In fact, my book has made the CBA best-seller list a couple of different times and has garnered first place in RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award and Award of Excellence.

Could my debut book have done even better though, if I’d thrown in a little sex?

I don’t think so, and here are three reasons why:

1. I’m writing for a niche market.

My publisher, Bethany House (a division of Baker Books), specifically targets readers of religious fiction. A reader who picks up a book with a Bethany House logo has certain expectations about the book, including that it contain some spiritual themes, and that it won’t have explicit sexual content.

In the editing of my book, my publisher has asked me many times to tone down especially passionate kissing scenes, because too much intimacy could alienate readers who expect a sweet romance when they open up a Bethany House book.  I realized those expectations going in to my contract, and even though I tend to push the boundaries every now and then, I respect the standards of my readers.

2. Diversity within the romance genre is important.

Roni and I are at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to sex in our romances. While mine have none, hers are so hot the words sizzle off the pages. But the diversity between our books and within the romance genre is reflective of the diversity of life, the varying tastes people have in their reading, and their own personal preferences.
If writers were all trying to hit the “middle group” we’d leave out some readers who like more and some who like less. Besides, if we were all writing the same thing, our books and lives would end up being boring replicas.

3. Your characters don’t need to have sex in order to develop sexual tension.

What makes a story riveting and enjoyable isn’t necessarily the amount of sex it has in it. Instead, one of the key factors in making a captivating romance is how the author develops the sexual and romantic tension.
I like stories best that keep tightening the relational tension—that enigmatic push and pull between the hero and heroine. The two continually grow more attracted to each other, but the obstacles keep growing too. Their passion is igniting, but insurmountable conflict keeps them apart.

Developing an intense emotional relationship, creating flirtatious and fun banter, and the tender building up of intimacy—those are the things that make a romance truly satisfying.

In fact, one reader said this about my new release, The Doctor’s Lady: “For a story with no sex scenes, you have some very sexy moments in there. Love that.”

What do you think? Do romances need to have sex in order to sell well? Have you tried a sweet (sexless) romance? Were you bored?

And don't forget to leave a comment and your email address to be entered to win a copy of The Doctor's Lady!

©Jody Hedlund, 2011

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher's Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Her second book, The Doctor’s Lady released in September 2011.

CRASH INTO YOU is now available for pre-order!
Read an excerpt here.

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